May 11, 2023 News
…says project will pose manageable risks
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Assessment Board (EAB) on Wednesday issued its decision to uphold the waiver of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a 300 megawatt gas-fired power plant to be constructed at Wales, West Bank Demerara.
Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 6, 2023 published its decision to exempt the project from the study. This decision was appealed in two separate applications, leading to a public hearing by the EAB on March 22, 2023.
The hearing was held under protest by citizens, who verbally shared their doubt in the credibility of the Board, due to multiple conflicts of issues.
In upholding the decision of the EPA, the Board- Chaired by Head of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Dr. Mahendar Sharma- said among other things that the project will pose manageable risks to the environment and socioeconomic resources of Guyana.
The EAB responded to 10 of the concerns raised by the appellants Vanda Radzik and Elizabeth Deane-Hughes and Danuta Radzik. These include the danger posed by gas plants and pipelines, impacts on humans, explosions, water quality impacts and methane leakage among others.
The Board made it clear that the Environmental Protection (EP) Act does not mandate the requirement of an EIA for any particular project or categories of projects, as the decisions remain that of the EPA.
In laying the foundation for its ruling, the EAB went on to state that “all development projects have some inherent risk and danger”, however the power plant will be situated in an isolated area, more than two kilometers away from communities.
As it regards impacts on humans, the Board only said “the key Valued Environmental and Social Components (VECs) were assessed related to environmental and human health.”
On impacts to air quality, the three member body said, “While the Project represents an increase in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, the percentage increase relative to national GHG emissions is less than 1% percent, and the percentage increases relative to regional and global emissions are all several orders of magnitude below 1%.”
It also noted that the design uses both gas and steam turbines, which reduces the burning of fossil fuel by approximately 35% than that of a simple traditional cycle plant. Moreover, it said reviews of other EIAs for similar natural gas power plants show that negative air quality impacts are reduced when natural gas power plants replace fossil fuel generation technologies.
Meanwhile, the Board assured that an explosion at the power plant is considered “unlikely to occur due to the extensive preventative measures to be employed.” Nevertheless, it said flame detectors, gas detectors, blast protection and other technology will be installed.
According to the body, “firefighting equipment and gas detection equipment will determine if there is a leak. If detected, the equipment immediately alerts the operators, the plant will be shut down and the water monitors will be activated to prevent the leak from igniting.”
With the adoption of such controls and others, the EAB is convinced that “the project is expected to pose only manageable risks to the environmental and socioeconomic resources of Guyana.”
On the issue of water quality management, there will be “no significant impacts on the availability of groundwater resources” while potential impacts during the construction phase will be short-term and mitigated by industry standard measures.
Appellants did not access
In delivering its ruling on the waiver of the EIA, the Board said it found there are proposed mitigation measures for the expected environmental impacts included in the project summary and other supporting documentation submitted by the developer, which the appellants may not have been privy to.
It explained, “The appellants appear to have based their arguments solely on the information presented in the application whereas the EPA utilized information from the supporting documents submitted as well as the application to evaluate the project.” The Board did not state the other supporting documents that were used but ruled, “The EAB therefore upholds the decision of the EPA that no ESIA is required for the Project.”
In the meantime, the body said that an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) must be compiled for the project, along with a Gas Leak Integrity Management Plan. Several other detailed plans for mitigation, emergency response and others are also required as part of the permit conditions.
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